Honda's latest robotic stool is fun to ride, still impossible to buy

One of the several reasons for why we love CEATEC is that we get to test ride human transporters there (as well as meeting robots of all sorts). Last year we came across Honda's stool-like UNI-CUB, and this year, the company is back with a new and improved model dubbed UNI-CUB Beta, and it even let attendees ride the vehicles -- while wearing Epson's smart glasses, no less -- around the show floor under staff supervision. It should be noted that the Beta was actually first unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show last November, but that didn't kill our curiosity. Read on for our impression and hands-on video.

While both the original UNI-CUB and its successor have the same 6 km/h top speed and 6 km range, the main difference between them is that the latter is lower and lighter, with the trade-off being the seat is no longer adjustable. Honda doesn't consider this a problem, and after our own test rides, both we agree that this is more stable and comfortable to ride on thanks to the lower center of gravity; and the softer seat is a bonus as well.

Another notable change is that the footrests have been redesigned to serve as support stands. When you want to park the vehicle or use it as a stationary stool, pull up the lever beneath the back of the seat and the footrests will flip to stand mode. Similarly, to get on the Beta, simply sit down on it, push the lever down and then place your toes on the footrests. Compared to the original UNI-CUB, we felt more confident when getting on and off the new model thanks to the extra support.

As impressive as the UNI-CUB Beta is, a Honda rep told us that there's still no launch date in sight as the company continues to explore potential use cases, as well as to make the product more affordable by constantly refining the design. Having said that, we're certainly getting close to the day when these mobility devices become an acceptable and legal means of transportation, which is great news for those suffering from mobility difficulties.